Gilded class warriors
In his first term President Obama was criticized for trash-talking the one-percenters while enjoying the aristocracy of Martha’s Vineyard and the nation’s most exclusive golf courses.
Obama never quite squared his accusations that “millionaires and billionaires” had not paid their fair share with his own obvious enjoyment of the perks of “corporate jet owners,” “fat cat bankers” and Las Vegas junketeers.
Now, that paradox has continued right off the bat in the second term. In the State of the Union, Obama once more went after “the few,” and “the wealthiest and the most powerful,” whom he blasted as the “well-off and the well-connected” and the “billionaires with high-powered accountants.”
Like clockwork, the president then jetted to West Palm Beach for yet another golfing vacation at one of the nation’s priciest courses, replete with lessons from a $1,000-a-hour golf pro to improve the presidential putting.
The rest of the first family jetted off on their own skiing vacation to elite Aspen, Colo., where nobody accepts that at some point they’ve already “made enough money.” Meanwhile, below the stratosphere, unemployment rose to 7.9 percent for January — the 49th consecutive month it has been 7.8 percent or higher. The economy shrank in the last quarter of 2012, gas is back to almost $4 a gallon, and the government continues to borrow almost $4 billion a day.
Today, lots of liberal grandees attack the rich and yet do their best to act and live just like them.
Take financial speculator and leftist billionaire George Soros, who is back in the news. Soros is able to fund several progressive think tanks that go after the 1 percent because he is the most successful financial buccaneer of the age — notorious as “the man who broke the Bank of England” and was convicted of insider trading in France. The Soros family investment firm’s most recent speculating coup was betting against the Japanese yen. That made Soros $1.2 billion in just three months — enough capitalist lucre to keep funding Media Matters and other attack-dog progressive groups for years to come.
Facebook co-founder and Obama campaign organizer Chris Hughes just bought the New Republic and has rebranded the magazine as an unapologetic progressive megaphone.
How odd that hip Facebook just confessed that it paid no federal or California state income taxes for 2012 on its $1.1 billion in pre-tax profits on its U.S. operations alone. Odder still, Facebook will probably receive a federal tax refund of about $429 million. Apparently Facebook’s “well-connected” found some “high-powered accountants” to write off their stock options as a business expense.
Perhaps Treasury Secretary-designate Jack Lew should have a look at Facebook’s tax contortions. He should be familiar with the big-money paper trail, given that Lew himself took a nearly $1 million bonus from Citigroup after it had received billions of dollars in federal funds to cover its gargantuan losses.
Lew, like his tax-dodging predecessor, Timothy Geithner, has a propensity for doing just the opposite of what the president used to preach against. Obama, remember, warned Wall Streeters not to take bonuses after their failing companies received federal money.
Obama also derided dubious offshore Cayman Islands tax shelters. Yet he apparently forgot to tell that to Lew, who invested in a fund registered to the same Potemkin Cayman Islands building that Obama had used as a campaign prop to bash the one-percenters.
One of the nation’s best-known class warriors is former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Chicago, who for years has damned the wealthy for their ill-gotten gains. He is expected to plead guilty to fraud charges after he and his wife allegedly siphoned off $750,000 from their campaign accounts to pay for an assortment of one-percenter extravagances like a $43,000 Rolex watch.
Today’s leftists like the high life as much as their demonized conservative rivals. The more they damn the bad “millionaires and billionaires,” apparently the less guilt they feel about living it up in Palm Beach or Aspen, paying no taxes, offshoring their profits or wearing Rolex watches.
The vast growth of the federal government has splashed so much big money around New York and Washington that even muckraking progressives can’t resist. Loud redistributionist rhetoric offers the necessary vaccination shot that makes privileged leftists immune from any criticism — or guilt — over indulging in tax avoidance, billion-dollar speculation or aristocratic tastes.
George Orwell long ago noticed the same thing, when in “Animal Farm” the pig elite loudly damned reactionary humans even as they sought to copy them by walking on two legs.
: (Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His new book, “The Savior Generals,” will appear this spring from Bloomsbury Press. You can reach him by e-mailing: [email protected].)
Victor Davis Hanson